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Md. fisherman accused of poaching also threatened witnesses, feds say

Striped bass
Striped bass, aka rockfish CBS Baltimore
(CBS) BALTIMORE - A commercial fisherman from Maryland's Eastern Shore was already accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars by poaching striped bass - aka rockfish - from Chesapeake Bay.

Now, CBS Baltimore reports that Michael Hayden allegedly threatened witnesses in the case, and could get up to 20 years in federal prison for that fishing expedition.

"In this case, the coverup may be worse than the crime for Mr. Hayden," U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein told the station.

Prosecutors say in the midst of a grand jury investigation, the Tilghman Island man went after three witnesses. According to a criminal complaint, he told one of them: "You rolled on me, [expletive], a man told me so, that's OK, I will take care of your [expletive]."

"He threatened them, intimidated them and he told them to make false statements to federal investigators," said Rosenstein.

Hayden is under investigation for illegally harvesting striped bass, a problem that's plagued the Chesapeake Bay, according to CBS Baltimore, which says the grand jury has not charged him with any poaching offenses.

The station says that in 2011, state officials shut down rockfish season a month early due to several serious poaching incidents.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is reportedly taking steps to crack down on poaching, using sonar to detect nets underwater - and hoping that Hayden, and others like him, will change their stripes.